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Archive of entries posted on April 2009

Stromness…..and all that jazz…..

Stromness…..and all that jazz….. | Click photo to enlarge

Originally uploaded by arctica

Lack of wind necessitated motoring to Orkney from Cape Wrath, but meant
we could round spectacularly close in under the cliffs and lighthouse,
and pass well inside the Duislic Rock. A long, uneventful 13 hour
passage took us in through Hoy Sound and up to the marina behind
Stromness Pier. There a local marine electronics man helped us fix the
autopilot – its like having an extra crewman back again. Once more we
took advantage of free buses to do some sightseeing and climb another
hill. The Stromness Hotel is hosting most of Orkney’s Jazz Festival (a
rather grandiose description of two trad bands from Edinburgh playing
over a long weekend) so last night we enjoyed some good old traditional
jazz from Bill Salmond’s Louisiana Ragtime Band and the Diplomats of
Jazz. An interesting character was the bass player who played in both
bands, dressed in tuxedo playing euphonium in one band and casually
dressed on double bass in the other. Fortunately he was a also
quick-change artist between band sets. We went across to Hoy this
morning but the exposed anchorage, cold wind, and cloud nudging the
hilltops dissuaded us from a hill trip – so we will return on another
occasion and in better conditions.

Hill Names, Long and Short

Hill Names, Long and Short | Click photo to enlarge

Originally uploaded by arctica

A grey, wet morning came as a surprise after ten days of good, dry
weather, but the wind was a steady SE F5, giving us good sailing up past
Stoerhead and across Eddrachillis Bay to Handa, the bird reserve island.
Here the breeze faltered but the weather brightened, and we motorsailed
the rest of the passage to Kinlochbervie, arriving in mid afternoon. We
were only the second visiting yacht at the brand new pontoons in the
outer harbour. Although bright, it stayed cool so the evening stroll was
kept short. Today, in beautiful weather again, we took the Durness -
Lairg bus, the Mate going on to Lairg but the Skipper dropped off at
Kinloch, Loch More to climb the Corbett Meallan Liath Coire Mhic
Dhughaill. This hill has the distinction of the longest hill name in
Scotland, beating runner-up Meallan Odhar Doire nan Gillean by 3
letters. This turned thoughts to the shortest hill names, of which 9
have only 5 letters (An Dun, Arkle, Belig, Eaval, Hecla, Orval, Smean,
Sotan, Tinto) and 26 runners-up have 6 letters. Brevity prevails, it
seems. We hope for a fair forecast for rounding Cape Wrath, but there is
a likelihood of strong to gale force winds overnight.


Lochinver | Click photo to enlarge

Originally uploaded by arctica

A short hop round Rubha Coigach and across Enard Bay took us in to
Lochinver by 1000, where we tied up at the now extended pontoons in the
harbour. The weather was perfect, warm and sunny after a cool start, so
we spent most of the day relaxing and reading in the cockpit, save for a
walk round the village bay. The Skipper bought a nice wee book "Of Big
Hills and Wee Men" which tells of the adventures of some Clydeside boys
on the Munros at much the same time as his own earlier days. Next
morning, the early bus took the Mate to Ullapool and dropped the Skipper
near Inchnadamph for an ascent of the Marilyn Beinn Reidh. With only 2
1/2 hours before the return bus, it needed a bit of a push, but was
comfortably done. Back aboard by 1115, a mist descended for a few hours
but cleared later to restore the view of the dominating peak of Suilven.


Coigach | Click photo to enlarge

Originally uploaded by arctica

A second day at Portree saw the Skipper climbing Beinn Dearg Mor in the
Red Cuillin and Beinn na Greine above the town, while the Mate went to
Armadale to visit the Castle, Gardens and Museum of the Isles. Moving on
again, we continued up the Sound of Raasay and through Caol Rona to the
Inner Sound, where a sailing wind got up. In fact it was soon gusting to
Force 7, and we charged along double reefed to Loch Gairloch and put in
to Badachro, which was sheltered. Conditions were excellent today -
bright sunshine, clear blue skies but cool, giving good visibility for
the Coigach Hills of Cul Mor, Stac Pollaidh and Cul Beag as we
approached the anchorage at Isle Ristol near Achiltibuie. Golden Eagles
were spotted from nearby Meall na Fheadain, which also gave fine views
of the Summer Isles and a panorama of weel kent hills. Later we enjoyed
a visit aboard from Paul and Clare, a holidaying couple the Mate met at
the Altandhu Smokehouse.

The Storr

The Storr | Click photo to enlarge

Originally uploaded by arctica

The fine weather and our good progress on the way to Orkney have tempted
us to spend a little time based at Portree. Skye is not always so kind
with its weather! The place is busy with tourists (one is never a
tourist oneself!) so the Skipper went off up the hill and climbed the
two Grahams (2000ft+) The Storr and its neighbour Hartaval. The former
is particularly dramatic with its cliffs and pinnacles, notably the Old
Man which is much visited, but few venture to the summit. The return to
Portree was along the southern end of the Trotternish Ridge, which forms
the spine of this northern part of Skye. Visibility was good, except
where smoke blew across from heath fires set on the western moors.

Onwards to Skye

Onwards to Skye | Click photo to enlarge

Originally uploaded by arctica

The tide helped carry us north through the Kylerhea narrows, through
Loch Alsh and under the Ske Bridge into Broadford Bay. The first glimpse
of the Cuillin of Skye revealed some lingering snowbeds, a reminder that
despite the fine weather it is still only mid-April. We passed through
Caolas Scalpay, a narrow channel which all but dries completely between
Scalpay and Skye, with a least depth of 6ft of water under the keel.
Despite careful tidal calculations, there is always a frisson of
excitement as the moment of truth draws near! Then through the Sound of
Raasay, noting the extensive works in progress for the new ferry
terminal in Churchton Bay, and on to Portree with its multicoloured
frontage rivalling (and probably surpassing) that of Tobermory.

A Visit to Eigg

A Visit to Eigg | Click photo to enlarge

Originally uploaded by arctica

Laig Bay (of the ‘singing sands’) on Eigg provides temporary anchorage
in offshore winds, so we took advantage of such conditions for a short
visit. While the Mate walked the road over to Galmisdale, the Skipper
took to the heights above Cleadale. Steeply up through a breach in the
imposing cliffs, then easily but dramatically along the cliff edge to
the summit – Sgorr an Fharaidh 1,115ft – then a descent from the north
end of the cliffs. As there was no summit cairn, a small one was started
with the hope that others will add to it in future. As the camera had
been left aboard there is no photo of Eigg, but this shot of the Rum
Cuillin from Orval makes amends – there can be few, if any, neater
mountain groups in Scotland. The SE breeze gave us a good sail up the
Sound of Sleat to Isle Ornsay, where we spent the night.

Round Ardnamurchan

Round Ardnamurchan | Click photo to enlarge

Originally uploaded by arctica

A bright morning saw us leave Crinan after a leisurely start, to catch
the tide at the Dorus Mor and go with the flood up the Sound of Luing,
past Pladda, Easdale, Insh and Kerrera to Oban, where we tied alongside
a fishing boat for an hour while stores were replenished from Lidl (‘the
last until Orkney’ bemoaned the Mate). It being Easter weekend, the town
was busy and we were not tempted to linger. Off again, we crossed to the
Sound of Mull and down to Loch Aline where we spent the night. The
morning gave us beautiful weather and perfect visibility for continuinig
down the Sound, round Ardnamurchan Point (the westernmost point of
mainland Britain) and north past Muck and Eigg to Rum, where we
anchored. The Skipper was landed ashore for an evening ascent of Orval,
about five miles distant from Kinloch.The effort was rewarded by a
summit circular panorama of hills, islands and sea. The photo from above
Kinloch looks back down the glen and across to the hills of Knoydart.

Round the Mull

Round the Mull | Click photo to enlarge

Originally uploaded by arctica

With the gale continuing, we pottered about Campbeltown and the Skipper
climbed Beinn Ghuilean just outside the town. Gale driven mist and a
knolly plateau made finding the actual summit difficult, and involved
much distance and effort – too much for a wee hill! In the morning we
put our faith in the forecast of easing winds and set off in a SSE
gusting over 30kts, giving us a hard slog down the Kintyre shore.
However, as we bore round towards Sanda , the wind began to moderate,
the sun came out and soon all was well with the world again. We caught
the tide at the Mull of Kintyre and rode it up past our intended
destination of Gigha and right on up to Crinan – a total distance of 62
nautical miles. We anchored off the sea-lock, but were too tired for a
sortie ashore.

Whisky Macs

Whisky Macs | Click photo to enlarge

Originally uploaded by arctica

Fully equipped again, we were glad to get away from Largs Yacht Haven
where we had been dwarfed by large motor boats. The forecast was for
strong westerlies and we were not disappointed! Passing through the
Cumbrae Pass and past Garroch Head on Bute, we made straight across to
the Arran shore to seek some shelter from the head-on seas. Following
the coast round to Lochranza, we were finally able to make way under
sail alone, down the Kilbrannan Sound to Campbeltown. The wind was a
steady F6 with 30kt gusts and we made good progress under single reefed
sails. The sun came out and the sea turned a sparkling blue, lifting our
spirits and raising false hopes of rounding the Mull of Kintyre on the
morrow. Instead, we have a SE gale and poor visibility – not weather for
our intended passage – and are lying fairly comfortably, if somewhat
bumpily, alongside in Campbeltown awaiting better conditions. We found
this aptly-named bar close to the harbour, two doors along from Rab’s
Chippie – apparently the gastronomic centre of the town!